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Softball association's request for funds rejected

January 24, 2007|by DAN DEARTH

HAGERSTOWN - The Hagerstown City Council on Tuesday rejected the Hagerstown Fairground Softball Association's request for $40,000 to pay for running electricity from Cleveland Avenue to the softball fields at Fairgrounds Park.

The electricity would have supplied power to light three fields at Fairgrounds Park once the association raises enough money to install poles and lights, among other things, the softball association's president, Mike Kelbaugh, said earlier this month.

The association is trying to raise $200,000 for the lights, he said. The plan included finishing one field a year beginning this year.

The association's plans were put on hold after Councilwomen Penny M. Nigh, Kelly S. Cromer and Alesia D. Parson-McBean voted against the request during the council's Tuesday work session.

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Councilmen Lewis C. Metzner and Martin Brubaker voted in favor of the request.

The $40,000 that the softball association requested would have come from Program Open Space funding, a state program that helps refurbish public parks, in part with proceeds from the Maryland Real Estate Transfer Tax.

Nigh and Parson-McBean said the money could be spent better buying playground equipment.

Although Nigh said she supports softball leagues, the softball association's members, "as men, can raise that $40,000."

The softball association will start fundraising in about a week to get money for the lights, Kelbaugh said. Depending on how those efforts go, he said the softball association might not need the city's financial help.

"I have no hard feelings," he said.

The city has to send its list of Program Open Space funding requests to the Washington County Commissioners for approval as soon as possible, said Parks and Recreation Director Junior Mason. Once the county approves, he said the list goes to the state for final consideration.

Before the council meeting, the $40,000 request for lighting and another request for $75,400 to install an irrigation system for three soccer fields at Fairgrounds Park were on the city's list for consideration.

After several minutes of discussion, those requests were thrown out and replaced with requests to buy playground equipment at Hellane and Staley parks and the City Park North pavilion.

City documents show that the amount of the requests for playground equipment is $110,000 - $5,400 less than the requests for lighting and irrigation at Fairgrounds Park.

Brubaker said he thought the Washington County Commissioners have roughly $500,000 in reserve for Program Open Space funding. Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II said he will ask the commissioners for the funding to run electricity to Fairgrounds Park.

John F. Barr, president of the county commissioners, said during a telephone interview after the council meeting that he wasn't sure whether the commissioners have a $500,000 reserve. He would have to check with county finance officials to find out, he said.

Barr said he didn't want to speak for the rest of the county commissioners, but providing Fairgrounds Park with electricity appears to be a city issue.

"My personal opinion is that will be a tough sell," he said. "(But) we're always open to collaborating with the city or any of the municipalities (in Washington County)."

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